Italian Summer. Valentino Resort 2021

This is the ideal summer state of mind: Mariacarla Boscono dancing, laughing and sun-bathing at the Italian sea-side, wearing Valentino and being photographed by her friend – and the brand’s creative director – Pierpaolo Piccioli. Italy was the European country that was first tragically hit by COVID-19, and to many it seemed that good days aren’t coming back anytime soon. Now the country seems to gradually revive and the dream Italian summer is back on track. Optymism is winning. “I never stopped working,” Piccioli told Vogue during a Zoom call. “I profoundly love what I do; this is my passion, something fundamental for me – it isn’t just work.” The resort 2021 collection is the byproduct of the time spent alone drawing and painting, while remaining connected with his team. “I wanted to convey spontaneity and truth, even imperfection—but it’s the feel of human imperfection you long for right now,” he explained. “The collection was born out of flat drawings – paper and pencil, no styling, no mood board, just researching on paper shapes that linger in your head. A pure fashion process, as it should be done.” The human quality of creativity is paramount to Piccioli’s practice. He has imbued the rarefied world of couture with emotional values – exposing and revealing its craft and handmade processes, and shining a light on his team of seamstresses and artisans as essential players behind his fabulous creations. This center still firmly holds. “I wanted [to communicate] something even more personal, very close to myself. Conveying a sense of intimacy, a sentiment of individual connection, of emotion. I decided to photograph the collection myself because it seemed more coherent in this moment to send out a message with no filters, no manipulation, no other interpretation or mediation. I didn’t want the usual glamour of a fashion shoot,” he continued. “What I was interested in focusing on was what I’ve missed most in this confinement – the simple feeling of human connection, of shared love and friendship. This is what I wanted to bring about in my images.” Not surprisingly, simplicity is the collection’s key word. “It’s a radical simplicity though,” reflected Piccioli. “I wanted to be even more radical, in that the simplicity I’ve tried to achieve in shapes, volumes, and construction comes at the end of a process of resolved complexities. It’s a study and a project on cut, proportions, balance. Reducing and subtracting to reach the core, something essential and pure – but not more banal. Simple, not simplified.” There’s an ease and a fluidity of movement, a feel for freedom and effortlessness exuding from the lean silhouettes of caftans, elongated shift dresses, capes, and separates. Defined by strong, solid colors inspired by Mark Rothko’s chromatically powerful palette, pure shapes were infused with a vibrant, joyful flair. A few prints inspired by 18th-century tapestries were rendered as inconspicuous abstract strokes of color, as if they were just traces of memories, or shadows of the decorative motifs’ former selves. And what’s more special than a dear friend you’ve known and loved for years? “Mariacarla and I, we go back a long way,” he said. A spontaneous energy radiates from the images, shot by Piccioli in the natural surroundings of his home: a lake where he goes swimming; a sulfur mine where Pier Paolo Pasolini shot some scenes from his 1964 movie Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo. There’s a palpable sense of intimacy and of a familiar bond between photographer and model. Again, individuality and humanity are the pivots around which the collection, which was designed to appeal to both genders, came alive.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Look(s) – Valentino AW18 Couture

What if Henri Matisse met Valentino‘s Pierpaolo Piccioli? The designer’s joyful autumn-winter 2018 couture collection, with some prints and embroideries inspired by the French painter’s work, was all about the fantastically bold colour palette that Henri would definitely applaud. And clothes that make you dream!

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

The Choice – Valentino AW18 Couture

A few days ago I asked you on my Instagram stories to pick one of your favourite collections ever and I would make a collage with it. Here’s @kozlic_’s choice: the holy Valentino autumn-winter 2018 haute couture by Pierpaolo Piccioli. “With ready-to-wear, your vision of beauty relates to the times you are living in,” Piccioli stated back then after his magnificent show. Then, he concluded: “couture involves a deeper and more intimate perspective, to go further into your own vision of beauty.” Take a look back at this collection right here.

If you missed the game, you can still write me your favourite collection and I will do the work. Got plenty of time. Culture isn’t cancelled, fashion isn’t cancelled!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dark Elegance. Valentino AW20

Pierpaolo Piccioli makes impressive couture for Valentino, that’s a fact. But ready-to-wear? I wasn’t sure about that until his autumn-winter 2020 collection, which is so, so sublime. And, surprisingly, dark. Well, there’s no wonder why. The future feels even more unknown and uncertain with coronavirus spreading in entire Europe (reality check: my university got closed down till the end of March for safety reasons…). Designers in Paris seem to state: black is the new black (just look at the apocalyptic Balenciaga). Asked afterward if he was feeling newly serious, Pierpaolo Piccioli said, “No, but fashion must be relevant.” As it turned out, Piccioli had a different kind of relevance on his mind, though. Over the last several seasons, he’s worked harder than most at bringing a new sense of inclusivity to his shows. In his new collection, he pushed his project further along. There were trans models in his cast and curvier-than-usual types too (a revolution is finally coming). He also had male models in the lineup. Backstage Piccioli said, “what I wanted to do was a portrait of a moment with no categories. Fashion has to record and embrace big changes in the world. We have to encourage tolerance and equality.” One way he went about illustrating his message was to strip away the color and quite a bit of the embellishment that we’ve become accustomed to at his Valentino. The show opened with a black mid-length belted cashmere coat and sturdy flatform boots. It wasn’t until look 26 that we saw a dress in full color, though eventually Piccioli did work his way around to many pieces in Valentino’s house red, as well as herringbones, leopard spots, and evening sequins for both women and men. And of course Adut Akech’s closing, sequinned gown. He said that the other way he tried to get his point across about a world without boxes was by putting guys in girls’ clothes and vice versa. The coat that opened his men’s show last month was worn by a female model here. Pierpaolo’s vision of inclusivity came dressed in sober, yet refined elegance. Simply speaking: it’s beautiful.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Shades of Elegance. Valentino Couture SS20

From all the couture shows this season, I (of course) anticipated Pierpaolo Piccioli‘s line-up for Valentino the most. For spring-summer 2020, a very different facet of Piccioli’s imagination transpired. The designer challenged himself to stop the operatic volumes and begin his search for a new silhouette. This time, it was structured, linear, fishtailed, modular, yet still drenched in color and pattern by turns. Looking back at the previous, ecstatic collections he dreamed up for us, he decided it was time to step off the path. “I hate it when people talk about ‘storytelling.’ I am not a storyteller. I don’t have the feeling that Cristóbal Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Charles James, Mainbocher, whatever—I don’t feel they had stories of the season.” Trusting himself to free-association meant exploring form and emotion in ways that emphasized choice, variety, and the ingenious devices that only the Valentino craftspeople are able to realize. There were more trousers, more columns than before; an interest in constructing layers in ways which only the wearer will know about. Bubbles, bows and plenty of Valentino red recurred. There was a gorgeous color palette – purple, eau de nil, scarlet, pink, mint… and black (this one looked super refined in the eveningwear section). As usual, the best.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Emotions. Valentino AW20

FKA Twigs performed live three of her brand new songs during Pierpaolo Piccioli‘s Valentino autumn-winter 2020 collection for men. Cloaked in iridescent Valentino haute couture with her face half-obscured by a crystal fencing mask, Twigs’s emotional and ethereal performance was a lot of competition to put up against the models who were walking past. Of course, nobody cares about the clothes when you’ve got an intimate concert with one of the most intriguing artists of our century in front of you. Still, when you start focusing on the looks, you see right away that this is one of the best men’s line-up coming from Piccioli. Wearing coats and jackets stamped with photo prints or embroideries of flowers are every guy’s new classic, according to Piccioli (and I completely agree with that!). The designer subtly let feminine notions into the evolving men’s wardrobe: Valentino boys carried small cross-body bags, some utility pouches, but others indistinguishable from the mini-bags on chains that have been gendered as female for generations. The closing look was the precise defintion of the designer’s vision of the new man’s style: a softly tailored suit, entirely covered in navy sequins. Incredible. “Men are changing much more quickly in the last two decades because of women”, Pierpaolo summed up.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dream Buys in Milan

Other than lots of pasta, art and Prada, Milan is of course fashion. It’s refreshing to see brands like Thom Browne emerge in Europe and labels like Balenciaga shaking up the vision of a retail space. Here’s a little dream shopping tour in the ‘fashion quartet’ of Milan’s Brera quartet… and it’s getting even better when you know that it’s 50% discount everywhere since the beginning of January!

What shocks you the most at Balenciaga are the mannequins standing at the entrance. Or rather two human corpses, which are hyperreal wax figures of two models of the brand. They are disturbing and even spooky. But it’s Demna Gvasalia’s world, so there’s no such thing as „basic”.

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Of course, Bottega Veneta is the busiest store in Milan. I overheard two women literally killing themselves for the last pair of block pumps in blue. That’s the Daniel Lee factor standing behind the brand’s accessories. Still, my heart belongs to the orange intrecciato shoulder bag.

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Off to the mountains for the holidays but still need a ball gown? The Moncler x Pierpaolo Piccioli duvet coat-dress is the only option.

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While everybody went crazy for the Mickey Mouse capsule that hit all the Gucci stores that day, I went mad for this faux fur coat. So dramatic.

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The killer heeled boots from Rick Owens. Not sure if they are made for walking, but they will elevate any silhouette. And those amazingly draped gowns in burgundy… they look incredible.

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Thom Browne’s preppy tailoring and quirky elegance is expanding in Europe. The Milan store – kept in the brand’s signature retro office style – is filled with Thom’s classics, as well as his fashion show garments (like the blazer with Una Troubridge intarsia illustration). My favourite item? The puppy slides.

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Loewe! The details! The William de Morgan capsule! Too many things to love.

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Jil Sander’s soft minimalism is always appealing. And it’s even better when styled with those calf hair wedge boots.

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All photos by Edward Kanarecki.